Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Watkins Glen Grand Prix Celebration

Get Ready!  Watkins Glen is Shutting Down!
By the end of our week at the beautiful Watkins Glen State Park in New York, we're slowly getting the itch to travel, this time toward home. We have been living in our twenty-one foot travel trailer for the last 89 days and we still have one more day to go before we begin our return trip home to Port Charlotte, Florida.

Beth introduces Ilse to old friends
After spending six days in the beautiful Watkins Glen area, and wrapping up a really memorable visit, we end the week with an in-town celebration as the Village of Watkins Glen basically shuts down on Friday afternoon for the re-enactment of the original 1948 Grand Prix, the very first road race held in the U.S. The track uses the public roads that encircle the state park, including the section right through the heart of town. It is probably the only time you can wander through town with a beer or a glass of wine in your hand. We met our friends Beth and Turk and spent the afternoon looking at cars that had competed in the Concours D'Elegance which were on display along the main street. And, of course, meeting all of Beth and Turk's friends as the entire community turns out for the event. Also on display were many of the vintage race cars that were to participate in the real races to be held at the famous Watkins Glen International Race Track on Saturday and Sunday. 

Even the checkered-flag intersection reflects the race mood of the town
 At 5:30 or so in the afternoon, everyone crowds to their favorite vantage points along the streets as a pace car takes almost all of the cars on display, and many more which were brought in from the race track just for the opportunity to drive the original Grand Prix circuit, single file around the six mile track. Almost every driver gives a little throttle going through town to the delight of the spectators. Several of the older cars fail to show up for the last laps, but there are enough serious racing machines to keep the crowd happy.

Are we having fun yet?
We meet our friends Beth and Turk at Watkins Glen International Racetrack on Saturday for the Vintage Car races, but the weather turns cold, wet and windy, and the forecast for Sunday is more of the same. We have a grand time at the track in spite of the weather, but especially in the dry warmth of the garages which are open to the public as one admission ticket buys access to the whole race track. 

Alfa Romeo T-33
After gawking at cars we had seen racing at Daytona, even an Alfa Romeo we once saw at the NΓΌrburgring, we head back to the Watkins Glen State Park campground where we have an impromptu picnic in our travel trailer. Beth made lunch intended for tailgating at the race track, but we eat in our cozy little box on wheels instead. Since Sunday looks like another wash-out, we decide to pass on returning to the track. After lunch we say our goodbyes and begin making plans for October when once again they will become our next door neighbors in Florida,

LeMans Winning Porsche 956
While Ilse and I are settling in for the evening, we decide to take advantage of a break in the weather and begin packing up the trailer for the next move which was planned for early Monday morning. With no plans for Sunday, we decide to leave Watkins Glen State Park campground a day early. Besides, the distance to the next campground at Bolar Mountain, Virginia, is just too far and too mountainous to do comfortably in one day, so we decide to take advantage of the extra time and split the trip into two days.

As we head back down U.S. 15 into Pennsylvania early Sunday morning, Ilse asks me if we really want to try to make it as far as we can before we look for a commercial campground. Somehow, we both know we aren't going to Bolar Mountain. We decide simply to go as far as we are comfortable in one day and then head for Athens Georgia. It has been a marvelous, memorable trip, but now we are anxious to see our daughter, Monica, her husband Troy, and of course our delightful three-year old granddaughter, Claire. We last saw them at the family reunion in Pleasant Garden, North Carolina, way back in June.

We call the NRRS, National Recreation Reservation System, and cancel our two day reservation at Bolar Mountain. We'll spend the extra time with the kids instead. Ilse breaks out the road map and we begin looking for campgrounds just inside the Virginia state line. We call several that look promising as we head down Interstate 81 through Maryland and the short section of West Virginia. We settle on a campground just outside Winchester, Virginia, and pull in just before 4:00pm. We wanted a campground close to the Interstate with all the regular amenities found at almost all commercial campgrounds. We pay over $46 dollars for a full hook-up site, that includes cable television and free WiFi. That is more than twice as much as we have paid anywhere the entire trip, but in the range for average one-night hookups for RV campgrounds. U.S. Army Corps of Engineer campgrounds and many state parks charge far less, but quite often don't have all the amenities of commercial campgrounds. However, with our carefully selected campground, it turns out the television is an old analog cable hookup with so much video noise it is not viewable. We crank up the antenna and watch the local broadcast stations instead, in HD none the less. Just as well, we really want to see a weather forecast before hitting the road in the morning. As far as the Internet WiFi was concerned, only the first hour was free. It was an additional $3.95 for additional day access, which ends at mid-night. 

The next morning, however, we would be granted another free hour. We wouldn't use any of the second day's free time as we were on the road early Monday morning, headed south.

NEXT: Southbound, again... At:

Monday, September 24, 2012


I tried to copy and paste all the word-processing definitions for “pinnacle,” but my computer just wouldn't cooperate. It doesn't matter anyway, the definitions are woefully inadequate. I'm trying to describe the experience of visiting our neighbors from Florida, Turk and Beth, at their traditional home in New York at the culmination of our three month trip up the east coast of the United States.
Glenora, New York

Our friends and next door neighbors in Port Charlotte, Florida, invited us to visit them at their beautiful home at Glenora, New York, on Seneca Lake. Never heard of Glenora? It's actually more than a label on your bottle of Riesling.  It is a small, tightly-knit, almost familial community on a point of land that inconspicuously protrudes from the shear cliffs of the west bank of Seneca Lake about eight miles north of Watkins Glen. We were thrilled to be invited to spend time with them, and planned to make Seneca Lake the northernmost destination of our adventure. There simply couldn't have been a better way to wrap up our camping trip.

They met us unexpectedly just as we finished setting up our trailer at beautiful Watkins Glen State Park, right in the heart of the village of Watkins Glen. They drove into the State Park campground and found us just to say hello and welcome us to New York. We carefully wrote down directions to their place and we made plans to drop by the following day. They even insisted we bring our dogs.

Their driveway, we found, is as unique as their house. The narrow, tree lined road down to the lake is beautifully rustic, but as you pass their mailbox on one side of the road and the driveway on the other, you realize their driveway cannot be entered while going down hill. One must first drive to the bottom of the hill, where a cluster of ten or fifteen houses  compromise the community of Glenora, turn around and drive back up the hill to their driveway. Driving over the crest of a small rise, turning down into their driveway the first time is an experience. Puckering, we used to call it. Someone coming out the driveway would be impossible to see until you collided with them by dropping on to their hood.

We can see beautiful Seneca Lake beyond the trees as we park on the grassy left side of their parking area, but no house. Instead, there is a walkway that leads to the edge of the cliff where a strange contraption with handrails ominously descends a hundred feet or so to the lake below. A set of steel steps runs alongside the primer-colored rails ending far below on a beautiful deck, which amazingly has a house attached to it. 

And there stand Turk and Beth, welcoming us for a wonderful visit that can only be described as the pinnacle of our trip. The device is a wooden seat elevator that is worth the price of admission. The descent to the house takes a little over a minute and is just plain jaw-dropping as the lake comes fully into sight as you descend below the overhanging trees.

The house, it turns out, is more than just a beautiful, updated three bedroom home with a sun-room over the lake itself, it also serves as a boathouse for the queen of Seneca Lake, the iconic, 37 foot long, Mary Nan II, Turk's wooden 1929 Matthews. The boathouse also protects a couple of Whalers, a dinghy, and the most remarkable, fully restored boat lift system I have ever seen. Before long, we are all on the Mary Nan II cruising Seneca Lake in a style long forgotten by many, and simply unknown to most. Turk has restored and refurbished the Mary Nan II, she is currently on its fourth power-plant! He recently finished re-decking part of her aft deck, and had stringers in her hull replaced last winter.

After we dock, Turk demonstrates the amazing boat lift system to me. He has restored not only the beautiful, classic Mary Nan II, but the original double drive belt boat lift system of the boat house itself, complete with the manual clutch used to raise and lower the boats in and out of the water. He uses it to raise and lower the two Boston Whalers which share the boat house with the Mary Nan. The boat lift original drive shaft still protrudes outside the boathouse, but the actual lift motor is now an electric motor that drives the huge open belt system that looks like it should be in the Smithsonian Science building. It works flawlessly.

The boat house, dating from the 1920's was converted as a house in 1943, and Turk has been faithfully maintaining and upgrading the house for many years. It is an on going project and a work of love as shown by the faithfully restored boat lift, and the attention to detail in rebuilding and refurbishing the classic wooden boat Turk has always known.

Beth serves another classic dinner and we get to meet Mary, Turk's sister, and Ann, Beth's sister and her husband, Fred. A marvelous evening that caps off our wonderful journey, but wait! If we come back tomorrow, we are invited to stay overnight and, weather permitting, try our hand at sailing. We are all scheduled to get together on Friday and tour Watkins Glen as the town shuts down for the reenactment of the first U.S. Grand Prix. Vintage, veteran race cars from all over the country are already converging on this tiny, enthusiastic community for the final big weekend event of the summer season.

Even though I am an avid sports car enthusiast, a road-racing fanatic, it doesn't matter. Even without the racing or the classic cars, this week has been the pinnacle of the trip. It will be hard to top sailing on the Mary Nan II, or even the elevator ride down to her.

NEXT: How much better can it get? The Watkins Glen Grand Prix Weekend, at:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Watkins Glen State Park

Talk about a complex! No matter who we told we were going to Watkins Glen State Park, the answer was always the same: “You'll love the park, just make sure you are on the Mohawk Loop, it's the only one with electricity.”  We felt like the only people on earth who hadn't camped there.

The Watkins Glen State Park was the northernmost campground, and the only non-Corps of Engineers campground we made reservations during our entire three-month, east-coast trip. 

The first weekend opening at the popular campground was right after Labor Day, the three-day holiday that traditionally signals the end of summer. Timing was perfect as we were to visit our friends on nearby Seneca Lake before we headed south toward home. It was also the weekend of the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Celebration where the reenactment of America's first Grand Prix automobile road race takes place through town and on local roads. I was surprised to find any campground openings then as that is a very popular event.

We checked in on Tuesday just before lunch. We had to wait around before the rangers opened the office as it is only open for certain hours of the day. If you know where you are going and where the water spigots are, just trundle over to your reserved spot and pick up your paperwork later. 

Watkins Glen State Park does not have individual water to any of the 283 sites, and electricity is available only on the Mohawk loop making that one loop extremely popular with RVer's. All six camping loops are named after Indian nations of the region, and since we didn't have a campground map, we had no idea where to go. We decided to walk the dogs, have lunch in the trailer, and wait for a park attendant.

The South Pavilion
The friendly ranger at the park entrance told us they had just broken all attendance records over the holiday. The trash trucks were just hauling away the overflowing dumpsters to attest to the volume of campers. After checking in and settling into our campsite, we found we had the heavily wooded campground to ourselves. This was the first campground where we had to show our dog's medical proof of rabies vaccination rather than just current dog tags.

The unique park is located right beside the Village of Watkins Glen. My GPS actually saved me from missing the final turn off north-bound, New York Highway 14 onto NY highway 329 that leads to the near-by entrance to the state park. There are three entrances to the state park, but only one to the camping area which I almost missed. I was busy looking toward the lower visitor's center Main entrance just beyond the bridge over Glen's Creek, well past the turn-offThe lower entrance is only for the parking lot for foot access to the waterfall and the gift-shop. 

I wondered where the old race track used to be as we drove up the hill on highway 329 looking for the turnoff to the park entrance.  It turns out we were on it. 

The turn off by the famous Seneca Lodge, leads to the parking area at the south Pavilion, and getting to the campground from there is a short but steep drive. The South Pavilion also marks the beginning of the footpaths down the beautiful Glen gorge. Most park visitors rarely venture further up than the Pavilion, which also boasts an Olympic size swimming pool. The pool closes on Labor Day.

I asked the park ranger when we checked in about the Grand Prix weekend. She told us to get comfortable on Friday afternoon because we weren't going anywhere while the Village of Watkins Glen re-enacts the first Grand Prix held in America. The old, very first road racing circuit in America completely circles the State park and the campground, and it was going to be used once again for a vintage exhibition of the old Grand Prix cars on Friday. If you are inside the park, you might as well get comfortable as you aren't going anywhere until the roads reopen late Friday night.

Getting comfortable here is easy to do. The toilet and showers facilities are first rate, and spotlessly clean. One would never know the Hordes of Genghis Khan had just spent three days there. The camp roads, however, reflect the age of the park. First opened to the public in 1863, and part of the New York's State Park system since 1924, the park has been a hallmark of New York's state parks. The roads aren't ruts or cow-paths, but they are old, single-lane asphalt, showing many winters and the passage of many, many campers over the years. Oddly, there are no signs for traffic control as the loops are not one-way. Campers have to fend for themselves when encountering oncoming traffic on the narrow, often twisty parts. It does get interesting at times, especially when two big units meet over the twisty creek sections.

Our first evening was quiet and dinner went well. We were surprised when Taz, our Golden Retriever, leashed to the trailer outside, began to bark furiously and loudly for the first time in three months. Ilse and I were inside the trailer and immediately thought, “Uh oh, sounds like trouble!”  We rushed to the door to be surprised by our friends, Beth and Turk, who had graciously decided to drive to the campground to welcome us to New York. Taz was excused from his exuberance as he recognized our friends and neighbors from Florida. We made plans for the upcoming week, which have been logged into my memory as the highlights of the trip. I wrote my blogs about visiting with them before I finished writing the blog about the campground!

 Ilse and I drove down to the South Pavilion to embark on our walking adventure down the gorge trail. It is a surprisingly beautiful trail, ending at the base of the gorge where the gift shop is located. We wind up only yards from the highway and the Village of Watkins Glen. We returned to the south entrance by climbing the rock staircase known as Couch's Staircase and walking casually back to the lily pond by the pavilion. A really great experience.

We made arrangements to meet our friends in town Friday afternoon, but as we passed the ranger's office, we were advised not to bother with trying to find parking in town, it was already gone. It would be best to simply walk down Couch's Staircase and we would find ourselves in the heart of festivities. So we parked at the south Pavilion and in just a few minutes we were at the bottom of the rock staircase.

We met Beth and Turk once again, right at the bottom of the gorge where the Concours d Elegance winners were on display in the parking lot. Those are the classic cars that have been maintained in like-new, or show room condition! The entire parking lot at the entrance to the park had been taken over by the event organizers and the throngs of admirers were elbow to elbow. 

It was like a walk back in time for me. One of the first cars on display was a pristine, black 1952 MG TD, identical to the car that Leonard Estrada owned back when we were all somebody else. We had driven his MG TD from Denver to Miami back in 1961 when we were in the Air Force, and seeing the old car brought back a flood of memories. It was to be a weekend of memories! While many, many old memories surfaced, many new memories were made.
Turk and I check out a vintage race car...  Really!

If you are a sports car fan, put this one on your bucket list.  If you can make it to Watkins Glen for the Vintage Grand Prix, and if you are in an RV, I can highly recommend a really great place to stay!
For more information see: Watkins Glen State Park

NEXT: In the neighborhood - more local information, at:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Summary - Our First extended RV trip

How do I summarize the last three months of our lives? They have been a complete deviation from our normal routine. For me, living in southwest Florida, retired, writing, and completely happy, and my wife, who still teaches popular yoga classes, life couldn't get much better. We'd like to see our family up in Georgia more than every three months or so, but all in all, life ain't bad. We've spent the last three months, however, living in a box eight feet wide and about twenty feet long. The box has wheels and we tow it behind our car. It's called a travel trailer.

My wife and I decided to test an idea we toyed with for the future. That idea was to sell the house and all the accouterments, and just travel. That's it, just travel. We'd stay in a recreational vehicle of some sort at campgrounds around the country, possibly even volunteering as campground hosts at parks we like. Our longest RV trip prior to this was a modest three week excursion through the mountains of northern Georgia. We really enjoyed that trip and were ready to happily repeat it.

Did we really want to change our lives? We're very happy with the ones we have. Great neighbors, good restaurants and stores just a few miles away, the only part we don't like are the southwest Florida summers. Hot and humid, with constant thunderstorms and the threat of hurricanes, sometimes we think there has to be a better way to spend summer than constantly watching the Weather Channel. The thought of no responsibilities to a piece of real estate that dictates how often I have to mow it or change its filters, was beginning to grow on me.

We have tested that theory for the last three months, traveling from Florida to the finger lakes of New York, staying in campgrounds along the eastern U.S., developing ideas and conclusions about what we would like to do in our future. If we liked the idea of permanent RVing, we would put our home of fifteen years on the market and buy the perfect RV and tow vehicle and strike out for distant horizons. For our experiment, however, our choice of RV was to simply use what we already owned, a small, twenty-one foot travel trailer. We decided to use our current trailer and be as realistic as possible in our assessment of what we experienced.

We traveled over five thousand miles, had fun, saw wonderful parts of our country that we didn't even know existed. Who knew Pennsylvania had a grand canyon? We met many, many great people, got lost, got frustrated, got mad, even got ready to come home early, but wrapped up a marvelous summer doing something we had only dreamed of.

We encountered practically every brand of RV made in America. From marvelous self-contained class “A” diesel pushers that cost well upwards of two-hundred thousand dollars, to beautiful forty-two foot long fifth wheel trailers on three axles that, while as big and often almost as well out-fitted as the Class “A's,” cost half as much. Not counting the $45,000 diesel pickup truck and the special hitch you need to haul the 12,000 pound trailers, of course. Still, both types of units are incredibly popular and are often better outfitted than many houses. Without a doubt, they dominate the RV market with older, retired crowd, the ones who make sure they have room for the grandchildren. For younger families, especially those with small children, the smaller pop-ups and tents seemed to be the most popular.

We also saw beautiful, top of the line, self-contained class “B” and “C” units, but considerably smaller and easier to drive than the Class “A” units. The top-of-the-line units are absolutely the state of the art in technology, but we are not interested in them for several reasons. All self-contained units have to be unhooked and all the camping features put away before they can be used as simple transportation. There is a plethora of really nice, lower priced Class “B's” and “C's” available, but we learned we like the freedom of using a tow vehicle any time we want, from simply sight seeing to making a run to a local grocery store. There are pros and cons of both types of units, especially for those who want to forgo the hassle of hooking and unhooking the trailer and its connections. Having only a self-contained unit is far easier for many folks.

One factor we found that applied to any style of recreational vehicle, whether towed or self contained, was the type of camping facility, the hook-up, that is available. From full hook-up sites with water, electric service, and full sewer, to sites that had electric service only, or water supply only, we developed a set of wants and desires for future camping trips.

Our first major surprise of our trip was the campground where none of the sites had water to the pad, rather a communal water supply that no one could hook up to on a permanent basis. Some water supplies limit access to five minutes per camper, We had never encountered waterless hook-ups in our trips through Florida and Georgia state parks, but we found that waterless hook-up is common in some northern campgrounds, whether state or Corp of Engineer operated. When the brochure or description only mentions drinking water, be assured there is no water spigot at the campsite

Once forewarned, we learned to fill our freshwater holding tank prior to setting up camp, but the first time left us without water until we made a special effort to fill the tank. Water weighs over eight pounds a gallon, so filling our 26 gallon fresh water tank added over 200 pounds to the weight of the trailer. The popular Seven Points campground at Raystown Lake, the most popular Corps of Engineers campground in their entire system, is also a non-water to the site campground. By the time we stayed there, we had mastered the inconvenience of a prolonged stay at a waterless campsite.

In anticipation of campsites without electric service, we purchased a portable generator that supplied 2600 watts service, but found out it wouldn't start our trailer's air conditioner. I even installed the “hard-start” capacitor on the A/C, but it made no difference. We left the generator behind as we simply decided to stay at campgrounds that had electric service and not be without air-conditioning. When we stayed at my cousin's farm just outside Pleasant Garden, North Carolina, we hooked up to the house water with a garden hose, but we used a borrowed 7500 watt portable generator to run the A/C at night. We quickly found out how far five gallons of gas goes and how long we have to wear ear plugs.

The second thing we learned is we don't like to be dependent on a campgrounds' toilet and shower facilities. Whether in the state of the art class “A” or in a basic trailer, holding tanks have to be emptied. The gray water holding tank will fill up in a hurry when two people shower daily, especially if you add doing the dishes. The best solution is called a full-hookup site, with a minimum of 30 amp service, potable water, and a sewer hook-up that lets you empty your holding tanks whenever you want. Most full-service sites have 50 amp electrical service, but check to make sure which power level is actually available. With water and sewer, showering can be done at your leisure and convenience right in the privacy of your own RV. We walked out of more than a few shower facilities that suffered the maelstrom of weekend crowds.

We stayed at commercial campgrounds that touted "Free WiFi," although they neglected to mention the Internet connection was free only for the first 60 minutes!  Many commercial campgrounds also brag about free cable, but one we stayed at in Winchester, Virginia, had such lousy analog cable reception we used our trusty little antennae instead!  Free HDTV beats free, fuzzy, indistinguishable colors, and bad sound any day.

The majority of the class “A” units and many of the class “B” and “C” units tow a second, smaller vehicle behind the RV, which is unhooked and used as a runabout once they are settled at a campsite. Towing another vehicle involves a completely different set of problems. From being unable to backup your RV without first unhooking the towed vehicle, to special braking and lighting systems and tow bars, insurance, and simply being harder to maneuver through traffic and gas stations, towing a second vehicle requires more time and attention than we are ready to devote. I haven't been there, though, so I'll leave that chapter to someone else. Having the expense, the extra responsibilities and tasks of a second vehicle just isn't something we want to do.

As far as self-contained units are concerned, I have no intention of living in a motel while a mechanic in Slipstitch tries to find a replacement fender or even a simple belt for the engine. If the RV we buy is to become our domicile, it can't be at the mercy of a drunk or a distracted, texting teenage driver. We saw an RV on the Interstate just outside Tifton, Georgia, with its side torn completely off, its contents strewn all along I-75. That would be in the same category as losing your house to a hurricane or tornado.

We found how to pay bills, check mail, both the stamped and the ethereal kind, and to keep up with the news, especially the weather on the Internet. We visited libraries to use their free WiFi, and even used one as a shipping address when we had an emergency part shipped to us. We stopped at McDonald's restaurants when we absolutely had to have access to the Internet. We know now we will have a smart phone and a mobile hot-spot when we take our next RV trip, even if it is only another summer jaunt.

A Wal-Mart in Pennsylvania had never heard of humus, and another one had never heard of 3-in-1 oil. We also learned in Pennsylvania you buy six-packs of beer from bars or restaurants, and you pay whatever price they stick you with. No beer or wine in grocery stores in PA, and the beer stores only sell buy the case! There are no Camping Worlds in Pennsylvania, either, even though the state must be the RV capitol of the United States. Pennsylvania also has some of the prettiest mountain ranges and forests in the United States, and oddly, no sales tax on clothes.

We know we will make changes to what clothes we pack to wear and what we food we bring to eat. We learned we can live without satellite television, but not local stations and weather reports. We learned a lot, and most importantly of all, learned that we still have much to learn! Anyone who prides themselves on being an expert at this will someday be left scratching their head wondering why the wheels fell off.

Also on our list of experiences was a not-so-gentle reminder to reread the instruction manuals that come with every RV. They are really written so the average owner will understand them, but we found rereading them a second time around can be enlightening. When I reread the water heater manual included with my new travel trailer, I realized it was for a different water heater than what was installed in our trailer. I downloaded the correct manual from the Internet while visiting a local library. A blog entry on the Internet that suggests filling your black-water, or sewage, holding tank with ice-cubes and then driving around town to clean out undissolved toilet paper to solve erroneous water level readings would be far more difficult than following the manufacturers recommendation of using a commercial drain cleaner such as Draino or Mr. Plumber to do the same thing.

We met a campground host who roared with laughter as he recalled RVers who hooked up to the full-service sewer hookups for the first time and then left their black-water drain valves open as if they were at home. Toilets in RVs and toilets at home operate quite differently! The expensive trips to camper service locations that were needed to rectify the solidified, blocked waste holding tanks could have been prevented if the owners had read their manuals. Don't open your black-water drain if the tank has no water in it, or, basically, never use the toilet without substantial water in the holding tank. Most manufacturers recommend at least one-third full before opening the black-water drain valve. In this case, not reading the manual is not only expensive, it can be embarrassing.

We saw a fellow towing a large, plastic blue-boy, a portable sewage container, behind an electric wheel chair on his way to the dump station. We saw the smallest fifth-wheel we've ever seen, a short, twenty footer, towed by a diesel pickup almost as big as the trailer itself, and more types of tents and canvas shelters than we could possibly count. We've seen large fifth-wheel units being driven on the Interstate with their slides-outs in the open position! Twice, once at Raystown Lake and again at Tompkins, my wife had strange dogs stick their heads under her toilet door. We've seen bicycles, chairs, and dog leashes inadvertently left behind by campers, and we've seen campsite scavengers who ride around campgrounds in pickup trucks after the mass of campers leave on Sundays, picking up anything left behind. Firewood, usually, but they always check over the sites for any loose goodies.

We met dear friends, both near the beginning of our trip, and at the extreme culmination, the endpoint destination, of our three month experiment. If it hadn't been for meeting our good friends near Watkins Glen, New York, in early September, we might have cut our trip short and returned home early, especially after Hurricane Isaac grazed the west coast of Florida, but we held to our schedule and saw the trip through to its end. It has been worth it, and we are glad we did it.

It actually hasn't come to an end yet as I write this. We still have several days to go at Tompkins Campground in northern Pennsylvania, the tenth location we have set up our temporary residence on this trip. After Tompkins, we are scheduled at Watkins Glen State Park in New York, Bolar Mountain in Virginia, then finally at our daughter's place near Athens, Georgia. After catching up on our snail mail, seeing our granddaughter and her parents, we will head toward Port Charlotte and slowly but surely return to normal.

We have decided to do a similar trip next year as well, still using our reliable Toyota Sequoia and the twenty-one foot KZ Sportsmen, and we'll take the dogs again as well. Oh, did I forget to write about the dogs? We had Daisy, our thirteen year old Samoyed mix and Taz, a Golden Retriever mix we believe to be seven or eight years old. Who knows how old they really are, they are both rescues that have become part of our family. We doubt Daisy will make another long trip, but then again, we may be surprised, she is a tough old girl. Taz is showing signs of cabin fever, but then he hasn't been off-leash for almost three months. He is a free spirit tethered on a leash, and we are thrilled with his patience and demeanor.

We will plan a different itinerary as we want to see more of this beautiful country of ours while still taking advantage of the cooler weather we came to love during this trip. We will probably shorten the trip as three months was just a little too long to be away from home. That also means we won't be trading the house for an RV.

The summation of the last three months? Home may be where the heart is, but our hearts are still at home.

NEXT: North to New York and Watkins Glen, at:

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Allegheny Moon

Mike and Sarah from nearby Coventry, spending a week's vacation in their pop-up camper just before Labor Day, are camped several sites away from us. They also have their dogs, a seven year old Bichon Frise named Daisy and a younger Schnoodle named Chewy, which they tow behind their bicycles in a baby trailer as they pedal around the campground. They also are avid fishermen, using their canoe to fish in the cove not far from the boat ramp in the early morning and again as the pastel evening shadows fall across the tranquil lake.

The power boats that run up and down the lake during the day are all put away and the cove is absolutely quiet as we watch Mike and Sarah from shore early in the evening. The surface of the cove is impervious to the restless shifting of the still settling lake, having already flattened like a mirror as Mike paddles their green canoe back toward the floating dock. Sarah rides with her legs propped up on the bow, enjoying the serenity of the late, salmon-colored summer evening. A slight chill begins to fall as the sun disappears behind the low hills to the west. The almost full moon has already slipped unobtrusively into position above the horizon on the other side of the lake with the promise of a beautiful full moon to follow tomorrow. It just doesn't get any better than this.

NEXT: How are we doing so far? An Analysis at:

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